Black talent is the backbone of the electronic industry. Since the start of electronic music in the 70s, Black artists have been at the forefront of the movement. And while the sounds have changed and the music has evolved, it is still Black men and women that lead the way.
In this series, we’ve recounted the pioneers of electronic music past and shone the spotlight on those who have made serious soundwaves in current times. Now, we’re shifting our attention to the Black electronic artists that are up and coming in the scene. And while this list doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the incredibly talented Black creators out there, this group has caught our attention with their unique sounds, incredible production skills, and innovative beats.
The Black Future of Electronic Music
Hailing from Montreal, Yaya (née Yasmine Seck) has been DJing since 2014. Montreal’s electronic scene has always been dominated by straight, white, males and this is exactly what Yaya is out to change. Co-founder of the collective, Obsolète, she and her team are working to create a more inclusive community of DJs and artists, promoting a space that is sexually and culturally diverse, and inclusive of women, LGBTQ+, and people of colour. Yaya holds a recurring party titled “NO HOUSE! NO TECHNO!” at Datcha in Montreal where she spins Afrobeat, hip hop, baile funk, soca, and dancehall. The name of the event screams the only rule there. Yaya continues to bring the beat everywhere she spins, including her set at the elusive Moonshine x Boiler Room party which was highly danceable and brought major tropical heat.
Pursuit Grooves, real name Vanese Smith, is no new name on the scene. In fact, the Washington-born, Toronto-living artist has lived many lives in the music industry – as an electronic artist, rapper, DJ, vocalist, and DJ teacher. Despite her many talents, she still flies under the radar, unjustly so. She describes her sound as “Experimental Electronic Travels through Soul, Bass, House and Hip Hop”. On her most recent and 13th album, Bess, Smith recounts the story of the first Black female pilot in the US, Bess Coleman’s, life endeavours through 15 tracks that seamlessly blend drum and bass, hip hop, footwork, and neo-soul. The musical innovator continues to perform worldwide-her past performances including Sónar in Barcelona, MUTEK in Montreal, and Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit. And as 2020 has been no one’s year, we’ll vouch for 2021 being Pursuit Grooves’.
British-born, Ghanaian/Russian/German Henrietta Smith-Rolla, goes by Afrodeutsche as an ode to her rare roots. She has recently exploded on the UK scene with her Afrofuturistic electro, techno, Detroit house, and classical sound. It may seem like quite the mix, but it works. Her first-ever live gig, she opened for Carl Craig in Ibiza in 2016. Now, she hosts a monthly radio show on NTS where she keeps listeners coming back to hear her unexpected mixes of dark techno, jacking house, and footwork. 2019 was a big year for her. Publications like The Guardian and Dummy Mag sang her praises after her 2018 release of her debut album “Break Before Make” on Skam. She has since released an EP on River Rapid and hit the decks at Dekmantel, Sónar, Berghain, and Printworks.
From Utrecht, Carista is the DJ everyone wants to open for them. Self-taught, she bought her first pair of turntables at 19 and turned to YouTube tutorials. After winning a mixtape competition hosted by Rotterdam club BIRD in 2012, she landed a gig and subsequent residency at BIRD and other local clubs. Word started to travel about the charismatic selector, curator, and DJ. She went on to land herself a monthly radio show at Red Light Radio and NTS which got her noticed by a slew of festival programmers. She’s since made her debuts on Boiler Room and at festivals like Secretsundaze, Dekmantel, and ADE, where she opened for De School’s 62-hour party. Her sets are never predictable but always highly danceable. Through her NTS show United Identities, she hopes to continue to promote diversity and inclusivity in the club scene.
Angolan artist, Nazar, who was born abroad to a diplomat, returned to his home country in the aftermath of a civil war. Kuduro, the music of Angola, was, in his opinion, far too upbeat for the truth of his country. His sound, which he calls Rough Kuduro is a critique of the government, inverting Kuduro and inserting field-recorded gun cocks, war noises, and lyrics, sometimes in his mother’s voice, detailing experiences of massacre and violence. It’s protest music; dark and hypnotic. This past March, he released his debut album, Guerrilla, on Hyperdub. With a sound so raw, uncensored, and layered, it won’t be long until Nazar’s name is on everyone’s lips.
A man of many names and talents, MoMa Ready, more formally known as Wyatt D. Stevens, is the founder of House of Altr, a lifestyle label, and a producer of techno-rich, dubby, breakbeat tracks. His 2019 album The NYC Dance Project broke him onto the scene, landing himself a spot on DJ Mag’s 2019 emerging artists list. The New Yorker already released another album this year, under his moniker Gallery S. The self-titled album has everyone talking again about his ability to make everything he touches into a banger. Self-admitting that this album is his most personal yet, we can’t wait to see what other tricks and tracks he has up his sleeve.